[Humanist] 28.568 David R. Chesnutt (1940-2014)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Dec 16 10:31:19 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 568.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Martha J. King" <mjking at Princeton.EDU>                   (54)
        Subject: David R. Chesnutt (1940-2014)

  [2]   From:    "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq at blackmesatech.com>       (15)
        Subject: a message for Humanist, perhaps?

        Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2014 18:00:30 +0000
        From: "Martha J. King" <mjking at Princeton.EDU>
        Subject: David R. Chesnutt (1940-2014)
        In-Reply-To: <alpine.OSX.2.00.1412151202090.58221 at lister.ei.virginia.edu>

[Forwarded by request]

> It is with heartfelt  sadness that I share this obituary of David
> Chesnutt from his wife Wiz Dow.  David's passion and vision for
> embracing new technologies to unleash the full potential of 
> documentary editions was beyond compare.
> I am personally indebted to him for his introduction to the world of
> documentary editing. A fine gentleman, Southern scholar, and 
> mentoring editor, he will be deeply missed.
> Martha King
> SEDIT-L list manager

David Rogers Chesnutt, 74, died of throat cancer at home in Hardwick,
Vermont on December 15, 2014.

Born in Athens, AL in 1940, the son of Thomas Brice Chesnutt and Lena (Moss)
Chesnutt, he earned degrees from the University of Alabama, '62, Auburn
University, '67, and the University of Georgia, '73.

Chesnutt spent 35 years as Research Professor in the History Department at
the University of South Carolina where he served as Associate Editor and
then Editor of the Papers of Henry Laurens, a 16 volume collection of the
letters of the leader of revolutionary activity in South Carolina during the
American Revolution. Laurens, a former president of the Continental
Congress, participated in the negotiations which led to the peace of Paris,
1783, which brought the war to an end. Chesnutt was one of the founding
members of the Association for Documentary Editing, in the late 1970s, and
he served as its President, 1991-1992.

In the mid 1970s, Chesnutt started to apply computers to scholarship in the
humanities when he developed the first program for creating a
back-of-the-book index. In the 1980s and 1990s he worked with a small group
of scholars from the US and Europe to develop the Text Encoding Initiative
(TEI), a protocol for publishing humanities documents on the infant World
Wide Web. His work in what is now called digital humanities culminated in
the Model Editions Partnership which demonstrated five different ways in
which fully edited documentary editions, such as the Laurens Papers, could
be served up on the Web.

For 23 years, Chesnutt served as a member of the South Carolina Historical
Records Advisory Board. In 2005, Governor Mark Sanford presented him with
the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian honor for
extraordinary lifetime achievement and service to the state and nation.

Chesnutt owned a small desk-top publishing business which published
scholarly books, and, for more than 35 years, he edited and published
Manuscripts, the journal of the Manuscript Society.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Dow, of Hardwick, VT, his son, James,
daughter-inlaw Allison Narver and granddaughter Kate, of London, England,
twin daughters, Catherine of New York City, and Elizabeth of Columbia, SC,
brothers Thomas B., of St. Petersburg, FL, and Samuel W. of St. Helena
Island, SC, sister Carol B., of Birmingham, AL, and six nieces and nephews.

He was a southern gentleman in the best sense of the word: genteel,
sympathetic, kind, generous, and wise. 

A memorial service will be held in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations
in his name should go to Hardwick Historical Society, PO Box 177, Hardwick,
Vermont 05843 or the Manuscript Society, 14003 Rampart Ct., Baton Rouge, LA
70810, or the Association for Documentary Editing, c/o Ondine LeBlanc, ADE
Treasurer, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston,
MA 02215.

        Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:19:41 +0000
        From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq at blackmesatech.com>
        Subject: a message for Humanist
        In-Reply-To: <alpine.OSX.2.00.1412151202090.58221 at lister.ei.virginia.edu>

Readers of this list may be saddened to learn that David R. Chesnutt, a important participant in the development of the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines, a pioneer in the development of electronic documentary editions, and a longtime member of the executive committee of the Association for Computers and the Humanities, has died at the age of 74.

David was for 35 years a research professor in history at the University of South Carolina, serving for many of those years as Associate Editor and later Editor of the Papers of Henry Laurens. 

He was a tireless worker in the service of documentary editing and spent many years helping documentary editors come to terms with information technology.  His work appears to have been appreciated:  over the years, the Association for Documentary Editing gave David almost all of the awards it makes:  the Distinguished Service Award (together with Charles Cullen) in 1985, "to acknowledge the assistance that they provided to other editors making the transition to new computer/ word processing technology"; in 1990, the Lyman H. Butterfield award "for his selfless service to the profession and to the ADE as president-elect"; in 1995, the Julian P. Boyd Award "in recognition for his lifetime contribution to understanding the American past through documentary editing as teacher, mentor and scholar."  

I first met him (if memory does not deceive me) when South Carolina hosted the International Conference on Computers in the Humanities in 1987, and came to know him better through the TEI, which began that November with a planning meeting in November. David was one of 31 signatories to the resulting Poughkeepsie Principles, which defined the scope and goals of the TEI; later, he served on the TEI's Text Representation committee.  As a representative of ACH, he was also present at the meetings in Chicago in 1999 that made the decision to form the TEI Consortium and pass responsibility for maintaining the Guidelines to them.

In 1995, he invited Susan Hockey and me to join him and a group of several historical documentary editions in exploring the possibilities for electronic delivery of such editions.  The resulting Model Editions Partnership collected samples from a variety of editorial projects, some of them traditional letterpress editions, some of them image-based (microfilm and/or CD-ROM) and created a web portal for them.  The original portal at the University of South Carolina is no longer in service, but after it died, some of the original data was recovered and has been made available in a slightly different interface at http://modeleditions.blackmesatech.com/mep/

David's quiet demeanor, marked southern accent, and deliberate speech may have led some to underestimate his intelligence and drive.  But he moved the Laurens papers to word-processing and electronic type-setting at a time when exploiting information technology for editorial projects did not mean choosing wisely from among the existing array of commercial and open-source software suitable for the purpose, but hiring a programmer and developing with them a program for managing back-of-the-book indices (and later, a generic markup system for typesetting the edition). Not work for the clueless or the timid.  

The TEI and its users, American document editors, students of American history, and digital humanists are all in his debt.

* C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, Black Mesa Technologies LLC
* http://www.blackmesatech.com 
* http://cmsmcq.com/mib                 
* http://balisage.net

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